Mercury water and cauterizing stones: Nicolas André and tic douloureux.
In his 1756 text, Observations pratiques sur les maladies de l'urèthre et sur plusiers faits convulsifs, Nicolas André coined the term "tic douloureux." He believed that this pain originated from compression of facial sensory peripheral nerves. Using scientific observation and experimentation to confirm this hypothesis, he reproduced the tic pain and treated it by using careful efforts to remove adhesions from the nerve with a caustic solution of mercury water. Believing that recurrence of the pain was a result of early closure of the wound, with recompression of the nerve being the direct cause, André prevented recompression by ensuring open wound drainage. André's surgical technique of using cauterizing stones ensured that there was minimal blood loss and little danger of rebleeding and recompression of the nerve by an accumulated blood clot. His case reports include lengthy follow-up periods that documented the benefits of his procedures, which were confirmed by testimonials from uninvolved colleagues. Although remembered for the two words, "tic douloureux," Nicolas André has long been ignored for his prescient treatment and scientific analysis of a disease for which the modern standard of care has only been defined during the last generation.
Brown, JA; Coursaget, C; Preul, MC; Sangvai, D
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